A Workshop for Young Researchers
On the 28th of May, 2002, the CCCRW hosted "Knowing Fields, Fields of Knowing," a workshop for young researchers which presented work in progress, with a particular focus on gender in research.
The papers by Karen Mae-Hill ("Political Economy Behind Of-shore Banking: A Female Researcher in a Male Dominated Field") and Emefa Amoako ("Starting Research and Gaining Access: Methodological and Gender Issues about Two Fieldwork Experiences") examined the gender dynamics involved in gaining access to a field of study. Whilst Amoako discussed the observations of how both men and women influence her ability to gain access to two fields characterised by women, Hill examined the implications of a female researcher planning to enter a male dominated field to do research. Gaining access to a field has been defined as a process of initiation and re-socialisation of the researcher, which takes place at the start of the research project. It is a crucial stage in the research process and a prerequisite for research to be conducted. These papers showed how research experiences could alert a researcher to several issues involved in beginning research projects. One, that access was not a straightforward procedure and it involved continuous negotiation and re-negotiation during the entire research process. Secondly, that access influenced the kind of investigation that would be done and the stance the researcher could assume. (Emefa Amoako)
The issue of women's empowerment and agency was one of the common themes during the workshop. Several participants discussed different methodological approaches for analyzing and promoting the empowerment of women. Eri Taniguchi's work looked at the question of empowerment by working with local and international NGO's and women's groups in Nepal. The implications of speaking to women through these organizations was discussed. Bina Fernandez participated in an action research study with women from the Advisi communities in India. How the dynamics of action research can provide support for women's empowerment and agency underlies the issue of access to education. Adaze Igboemeka presented a framework for analyzing how gender is implicated in women's access to and outcomes from higher education. Considering outcomes and not only access to education might tell us something about how empowering education is for women. (Adeze Igboemeka)
The three papers presented on issues relating to resource distribution between men and women in a St. Petersburg municipality and rural households in Ghana. The disciplinary backdrop - economics and sociology - and the positivist and post-positivist approaches of the papers, defined the content and scope of their methodologies. The two economics papers by Bryane Michael and Philip Osafo-Kwaako, although they acknowledged participatory approaches, their emphasis was on either the individual or the head of the household unit, as they sought to understand the unequal allocation of resources among household members and the impact of power dynamics both within and beyond the household. Whereas economics papers sought statistically relevant relationships to test pre-determined distributive decisions (outcome-oriented), Percy Oware's sociology paper, which was overly concerned with diversity and multiple realities, dwelled on household processes to understand the hidden dimensions of resource distribution within households. (Percy Oware)
The final session, on brainstorming (led by Dr Paola Heinonen), became a lively one. Among numerous topics discussed, the focus went to the methodological and ethical issues on 'the voiceless'. Problematising the 'Queen Mother syndrome', the heterogeneity of 'women' was stressed. To tackle with the unequal power relations between the researcher and informants, experienced scholars provided some possible strategies in terms of dialogue, collaboration and reciprocation. This was followed by questions on the 'friendships' in the field and whether 'the voiceless' can only be empowered by outsiders. In retrospect, it has become clear that the assumption was that the outsider conducts the 'fieldwork' whereas some of the participants were studying about their own societies at home as well as in diaspora. Maybe the next workshop needs to address the more complex terrain of ethnographic practice beyond the old distinction of 'the field' and 'home' and across disciplinary and socio-cultural boundaries of 'us' and 'them'. This will be our 'homework'. (Noriko Watanabe)
Report by Emefa Amoako, Adeze Igboemeka, Percy Oware and Noriko Watanabe.